The Russia Collusion Hoax Raises its Ugly Head Once Again

August 3, 2020

The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 30 – This week:

  • Democrats still hung up on Russia hoax
  • Survey data only magnify coronavirus fear, political potency
  • Time to play underdog: Gardner cuts into Hickenlooper’s lead

Russia collusion hoax: The recent hearings involving Attorney General William Barr — and his invitation thereto — indicate that Democrats still can’t admit they were over-eager to believe a hoax about Trump colluding with the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin to win the presidential race.

When this happened officially, ultimately leading to impeachment, it was a sad, shameful, affair that amounted to a concession to Russia. But now it is a farce far worse.

It’s a sad predicament because it is so stupid. So many liberals rooted for Russia in the Cold War and against efforts to contain its espionage. They vilify Joseph McCarthy and have no qualms about Russian efforts to spy on or run the minutiae of American policy. But distaste for Russia suddenly became a thing after Donald Trump was elected president. It is quite telling that when Russia invaded Ukraine during the Obama administration, none of these people were similiarly outraged or calling for investigations. At that point, most of them who paid attention were blame-shifting.

Democrats had desperately hoped to turn Russia collusion into a cause of impeachment. When the Mueller report came up empty on this score, they were wounded to their very souls. So many liberal media hosts had staked all of their credibility on a Russia-collusion impeachment. So many of them were exposed as ignorant. 

When they ultimately had to settle for a contrived impeachment based on Trump’s questionable but ultimately harmless conversations about Ukraine’s security versus Russia, Democrats were severely disappointed. Yes, they voted for impeachment, but it was a joke from one end to the other. They will experience this yet again to the extent that they are forced to stake their credibility on the collusion claims they cannot stop talking about. 

President 2020

Biden-veep: Despite earlier suggestions that it would come now, we have cause to believe that Joe Biden will wait until next week to reveal his veep choice.

Coronavirus: The New York Times has produced survey evidence strongly suggesting that those living in harder-hit coronavirus areas are less likely in proportion to support President Trump. 

The correlation is striking — too pronounced for Trump’s campaign to ignore. And this is not an occasion to claim media bias — rather, it is an occasion for Trump’s campaign to face facts, which it has begun to do. Trump’s top advisors have been shaping the campaign’s new, post-shakeup strategy based on this revelation. Trump himself has been changing tactics based on this or polling data similar to this. The coronavirus 

How have things come to this? Ultimately, it’s a question of fear. People remain genuinely afraid about the virus and what it might do to them or their families. 

Combine this with one other important piece of survey data from another source. Perhaps most people reading this or following politics feel exhausted by the pandemic and really don’t care anymore. They would welcome just getting the coronavirus and getting it all over with. But this is not at all the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of Americans. An ABC News poll found that currently, 77 percent are “concerned” that they or someone they know will get the coronavirus, compared to just 23 percent who are “not concerned.” Fear has trumped most of the emotions and sentiments that people feel under normal circumstances. These numbers help explain why Republicans’ numbers are currently so bad.

This should be enough to demonstrate why Trump and his campaign have been recalibrating on this issue. The numbers look bad for him now. It won’t be enough to tighten his message on the coronavirus, but it is probably a necessary measure.  

Ohio: Republicans in Ohio are suffering a massive local corruption scandal that has nothing to do with President Trump — a scandal big enough that they had to remove their state House Speaker. There are some eerie parallels to 2006, a disastrous political year for one of America’s sharpest, best and most engaged political parties, when there was a similar scandal involving various Republican officials and donors.

Biden’s presidential campaign is wisely jumping in and trying to gain a foothold where Hillary Clinton was utterly clobbered in 2016. It’s a smart play. He has spent $3.5 million on ads in Ohio since April 1. Not that Biden needs Ohio, but President Trump cannot win without it. Why not make a play for it?

Senate 2020

Colorado: It’s usually not good for an incumbent to trail at all. But the case of Sen. Cory Gardner, R, might be unique. He is an effective but still relatively obscure figure facing a political juggernaut in the form of former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D. If you think of Gardner as the underdog — which he really has been since Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race and engaged here — then perhaps he’s not really doing so badly after all.

According to a new poll from Morning Consult, Gardner has made progress in reducing HIckenlooper’s lead — surely aided by corruption charges to which Hickenlooper refused to respond earlier this summer. He now trails by just four points, 46 percent to 42 percent, even though President Trump trails in Colorado by a 13-point margin against Joe Biden. 

Sure, behind is not a great place for any candidate to be. But a candidate who trails by no more than four or five points can overcome a lot of obstacles if there’s a wind-change. And really, the entire Republican Party, at this point, is counting on such a wind-change coming, or perhaps at least on a tendency in the polls to underestimate Trump’s or Republicans’ support in a time when a personal announcement of support for Trump or Republicans can become an occasion for people to bring literal physical violence upon you.

Gardner, whose dogged campaign in 2014 is the stuff of legend, cannot at this point be counted out. Hickenlooper tangled with and defeated the progressive Democratic candidate, and now his efforts to drift into the U.S. Senate will surely receive more scrutiny.

Kansas: We said it a few weeks ago, but it has now become conventional wisdom that Democrats’ meddling in the GOP primary might actually be helping Kris Kobach overcome his polling deficit against Rep. Roger Marshall. This primary is now officially a tossup, slight advantage to Marshall.

Kobach, the immigration hawk who blew the governor’s race in 2018 after being turned down for a Trump administration position, is viewed as the Republican most likely to hand over this open Senate seat to the Democrats, just as he handed them the governor’s mansion with his ineffectual 2018 campaign. 

However, don’t write Kobach off completely if he wins. It should be noted that his 2018 loss came in a midterm year. It will be a lot harder for Republicans to lose in 2020, with a presidential race at the top of the ticket. It’s not as if Kansans resent Trump or anything like that. In 2016, he won the state by 20 points, even though that outcome involved Gary Johnson taking nearly 5% for the Libertarian Party.